Your Car Won’t Get the Mileage Posted on the Window (and Maybe That’s OK)

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It’s becoming more apparent that the fuel economy estimates on new-car windows are often very rough estimates. But the knowledge that these numbers are inflated may not necessarily hurt sales.

There’s no doubt that consumers look closely at fuel economy when determining which car to buy. In a 2012 Consumer Reports survey, mileage was the top consideration for would-be buyers, viewed as more important than a vehicle’s quality, value, or safety attributes. The focus—by automakers and buyers alike—on better fuel economy has regularly been causing the average mileage of new cars to inch upward. According to the University of Michigan Transportation Research Institute, new cars sold in August averaged an all-time high 24.9 mpg, compared to around 22 mpg in 2010.

Because fuel economy matters so much to buyers, automakers pump up every instance of mileage improvements. Last week, for instance, Honda grabbed bragging rights by announcing the 2014 Accord Hybrid had reached the 50 mpg plateau in city driving, beating out rivals like the Ford Fusion hybrid (47 mpg in the city), Toyota Camry hybrid (43 mpg), and the Hyundai Sonata hybrid (36 mpg).

Yet at the same time new-car mileage ratings are rising, more and more skepticism is arising concerning vehicles’ ability to measure up in the real world. A couple of years ago,Honda was sued by drivers who said their Civic hybrids weren’t getting anywhere near the mileage stated on car windows at dealerships. In late 2012, Kia and Hyundai were forced to lower fuel economy numbers on several vehicle models after an EPA investigation found them to be inflated and unrealistic. Last month, Ford lowered mpg ratings for the C-Max hybrid to 43 mpg after consumer complaints and independent testing showed the model didn’t get the 47 mpg promised.

(MORE: ‘Your Mileage May Vary': Truer Than Ever with Today’s Hybrid Cars)

Over the weekend the Detroit Free Press published an article investigating why it is that vehicles often do not deliver the fuel economy listed on their official EPA mpg ratings. John O’Dell, senior editor at Edmunds.com, explained that real-world car mileage can vary by 9 mpg from what’s printed on a window sticker—perhaps a bit more for hybrids. “The rule of thumb is to take 10% off the sticker for a gasoline engine and 20% off for hybrids,” he said.

Temperatures and road conditions, one’s driving habits, how much weight cars hold when operating, and vehicle maintenance all affect fuel economy. Hybrids are especially sensitive to such factors; C-Max owners came to expect no better than 35 mpg in February because hybrid mpg plummets with thermostat readings. Fuel economy also suffers when drivers are heavy on the gas and brakes, and quite a few drivers are guilty of these sins occasionally, if not regularly.

Automakers are understandably worried that continued skepticism about EPA ratings is bad for business. “The industry is cast under one shadow,” Bob Carter, senior vice president of Toyota Motor Sales, told the Detroit Free Press. “It’s not good for the industry to have consumers doubt the information.”

(MORE: Meet the Low-Key, Low-Cost Grocery Chain Being Called ‘Wal-Mart’s Worst Nightmare’)

However, for now at least, the mini-scandals about inflated mpg ratings don’t seem to be hurting sales in any major way. When Kia and Hyundai were forced to lower the fuel economy ratings in late 2012, analysts said the damage to their brands could cost $100 million in lost sales. In light of record sales for Hyundai and Kia last month, the impact doesn’t seem quite so grave. Likewise, Automotive News reported that the Ford C-Max sales rose 12% in August, even though that’s the month the automaker lowered the vehicle’s mpg ratings.

70 comments
tsiganka
tsiganka

I have Honda CRV 2014 and its heartbreaking to see that in the city I am averaging 12mpg and highway 17!! 

Tried to take the car to the dealership they have given me a bunch of bs that its my driving. My driving is averaging 2-10 miles a day and I am very careful on the way I drive. :( This car is doing worse then my old Honda Accord 2003!


NKAA
NKAA

My 2014 Honda accord CVT is getting 16.2 mpg average. I purchased it 2 months back and has 900 miles right now. It gets close to 14 mpg in city, and I drive mostly in city. This looks ridiculously low. I took it to dealer, and dealer said it depends on the person driving and nothing wrong with the car. But I drive as smooth as you can imagine. Don't know what is wrong!!

HarryZaimis
HarryZaimis

I average 45mpg city and over 50mpg hwy on my sonata hybrid. because I know how to drive. steady foot, acceleration when necessary, early calm breaking. simple enough.

vizionthing
vizionthing

I have a Honda Insight and its range per tank  is  dependent on the gas station I go to, I found that if I fill with the cheaper fuel laced with 10% ethanol I managed to get 820Klms on a tank. At one service station I filled up with the High cost fuel with the additives or what ever they put in it and I was extremely disappointed, the car just managed 600Klms. I think the economy of these cars is not so much the technology, but the quality of the fuel.

I believe the car markers today make all their cars the best they can possibly make them. On the other hand the companies making the fuel are just taking us for a ride.

dan5800
dan5800

My 2013 Hyundai Sonata Hybrid is only averaging 22 mpg city.  I have 700 miles on and sure do hope the numbers go up.  My CRV got better than this.

BenBeardsall
BenBeardsall

my minivan's (2002 dodge grand caravan, 3.3L) EPA rating is 16 city / 22 highway. I average 24.4mpg with a high of 29.04mpg. And that high is after 294 000 km. Adjusted for wear and tear, which should be about 6% at this point i could have achieved 31mpg. this is with all season tires and a roof rack. I could get the EPA rating with my eyes closed driving 80mph.

nobody has any excuses for not beating EPA.

JanetLeClainche
JanetLeClainche

I do better than cruise-control when it comes to keeping my car steady.  But my 3.5 year old Sienna van is getting less now than it did new.  It used to get over 22 mpg, then it dropped.  Last winter I could not get it above 21.2.  Then suddenly, the summer fuel blends came out and magically my van has now gone to 21.6.  The cars certainly get worse with age.  There's no doubt.  I've heard it too often.  But we also look at what we're putting in them.  We have no control over blends and additives for various regions and seasons.  Why should we not blend gasoline for efficiency?  Surely that's as good as for season?

shanemckiness
shanemckiness

2013 Honda Civic. I get 18mpg hwy vs the 28 highway they advertise.  I am thinking of taking Honda to court.  

Paddler45
Paddler45

The reason most drivers don't get near sticker ratings is because most drivers don't really know how to drive well for mileage.  Inability to hold to a steady speed whenever possible, putting their foot to the floor when possible, poor tire inflation and/or maintenance and air conditioning use even when not necessary will all reduce mileage.  


I've actually gotten better than sticker mileage on my last two cars.  My 1993 Altima, bought new and driven for 267,000 miles, only dropped below sticker mileage in the last 3 years years (I owned it for 17).  My current car, a 2004 Mini, consistently gets better than sticker mileage.  The idea that what is on the sticker is some kind of guarantee is ridiculous and anyone who thinks that it represents a guarantee is a moron.  What it represents is what is generally possible for driver who actually knows how to drive in a way the gets the best mileage.

fawmeopfw
fawmeopfw

"A couple of years ago,Honda was sued by drivers who said their Civic hybrids weren’t getting anywhere near the mileage stated on car windows at dealerships."

That's because 90% of drivers are m0r0ns.  Instead of easing off the gas and cruising up to red lights, they speed all the way and hit the brakes at the end, wasting a lot of gas.  The same goes for tailgaters who have to keep hitting the brakes.

DaManny
DaManny

You guys should check out KLOWNY1969 on youtube..he is a mechanic which posts videos so regular people can work on their cars ..he also gives tips on how to maintain your car to get better gas mileage..also u can subscribe for free..

bobgwlnj
bobgwlnj

I recently bought a, Audi A6 that was supposed to get 28 mpg combined mileage. I found that I was getting around 22mpg combined. So, I decided to do a more fair test. I did a drive at an ambient temperature of 72 degrees under the following conditions:  1) removed rear seat, 2) removed all accessories to reduce weight (owners manual, 12v outlet covers, head rests, storage tray liners, spare tire and jack, floor mats, etc), 3) I then had a 75 pound jockey do the test drive, 4) I had him draft a semi -- holding close about 12 inches from the trucks bumper. Under those conditions, I achieved almost 26mpg -- not far from Audi's stated 28mpg. So its really not so bad after all!


Read more: http://business.time.com/2013/09/10/your-car-wont-get-the-mileage-posted-on-the-window-and-maybe-thats-ok/#ixzz2eWc4zorf

saltgrain
saltgrain

I have an 09 Ford Escape.. I regularly exceed the 28 mpg Highway sticker and have never gotten as low as the 20 mpg number listed for the City.. Right now, as a 4 year old car with about 170K miles on it.. my average stays between 27 and 28 mpg with combined driving a little more weighted towards highway vs city.  I could average better than 30mpg when I first bought the car and was almost entirely driving my commute in the 55-65 mph range with relatively little start and stop.  I am pretty easy on my start/stop transitions... so that might be contributing to my better than normal numbers.  I am due for an oil and air filter change.. so I am hoping to get a little bump when I do that too.  No car will get the expected mileage if you don't maintain it and drive in an aggressive manner.

ScottSatellite
ScottSatellite

Of course then again you could buy a Golf TDI.  Beyond being one of the best built cars I've ever owned, Volkswagen substantially understates the real world mileage you will get.

RonHansen
RonHansen

If you think it's bad for gasoline cars, wait until you see the mess caused by plug-in hybrids! My actual measured mileage when burning gasoline is about 40% lower than rated, but it's because the engine hardly ever runs and when it does it's running under far less than ideal conditions. I'm not upset about the mileage at all because I've only burned 68 gallons in 15,000 miles over the last 9 months. The problem with "MPG" statistics with plug-in hybrids is they are completely meaningless. Sure, I can claim 220 MPG and be factually correct, but the statistic does not account for the electricity consumed in place of gasoline. Depending on where and when I charge, the electricity cost is highly variable so it's nearly impossible to nail down an exact MPG equivalent cost factor for electricity. For me, the rough estimate is $0.02 per electric mile and $0.11 per gasoline mile. Free charging at work is a nice fringe benefit, but with electricity as cheap as it is, my monetary saving is less than a daily cup of coffee. How in the world could anyone put all these variable on a window sticker with any kind of consistency that would apply to everyone? You can't!

DanielStuartHoffman
DanielStuartHoffman

Haha my car is rated for 21/27. I get about 27/32. That's a 2000 Nissan Maxima. Not sure why people seem to have so many problems obtaining the mpg the car is rated for or better.

Listen people here's how you find out how accurate that rating. When you tell them you want to take a test drive, have them fill the gas tank completely. After the drive have them fill it again, then divide the number of miles driven by the gallons added the second time. There's your average mpg for the test drive. If it falls lower than the city rating of the car, then don't walk, run from that car. If the dealership will not oblige you that request, AGAIN walk away. 

Caveat Emptor people. Do your homework. I don't have much sympathy if you had the opportunity to find out the real economy but chose to take a sticker's word for it. Do the above and that sticker is totally meaningless. 

mitchdubo
mitchdubo

Subaru is one of the biggest liars. I have a 2005 4 cylinder non-turbo Outback wagon. My average overall is about 18.... window sticker was 21/28. Most I get on the highway is 26. My similar in size/weight 5 cylinder Volvo wagon was great... I got up to 34mpg on the highway... but then again it wasn't AWD.

psymmonds
psymmonds

There is a solution, of course.   Have each vehicle tested by a 3rd party utilizing conditions more in keeping with real-world conditions. 

FWIW - I always used to get the mileage posted on the Monroney, until the manufacturers starting playing games with the mileage, tailoring it to the test instead of real driving.   Now, for any vehicle manufactured in the last 10 years or so, I seldom get anywhere close.

zacharyp87
zacharyp87

Driver is the main factor. I drive a 2012 Jeep Wrangler 6-speed. Sticker advertises 15 City and 21 Highway but I have a COMBINED average of 23.7MPG for the two years and 42k miles I've owned her.

psmarx56
psmarx56

I bought a 2010 Chevy Equinox for the gas mileage posted on the window decal; up to 27 mpg Hwy. The first month I averaged 15 mpg.  When we talked to the service department we were told we could only use pure gasoline. In this day and age when the auto industry is supposed to be finding a way to use alternative fuels, I am being told I have to use pure gasoline. The mileage did go up to 18 mpg. When again I voiced my concerns, we were told that it takes the engine a while to 'break-in' and we would see a difference at 8,000-13,,000 miles, By that time, I told myself, you won't take the vehicle back.  Fast forward three years, and I drive a Nissan Alitma, and husband drives the Equinox because his commute is shorter than mine. It is really frustrating to be lied to by car companies, by an American car company, and mislead by the fueleconomy.gov.  If you will notice on most stickers now, the wording for fuel has changed to flex-fuel; that means pure gasoline. We went to the car show before I made my choice to buy the Nissan Altima, and I noticed a changed in the fuel reporting on the window sticker from 2010, to the fuel reporting facts on the 2013 vehicle.  Every car that we looked at,  all had the same flex-fuel notations.  We saw one car that actually had regular gasoline as the fuel requirements. 

DG704
DG704

Not sure why people think 35mpg is all that good. My almost 10 year old 2005 Mercedes C230 Sport Sedan gets easily 35mpg on the highway. And it's not a hybrid.

fabianmd
fabianmd

We owned a 2011 Lexus RX450H and  traded it because we never got close to the mileage estimates reported on  the sticker.  We now own 2 2013 VW Jetta TDI sportwagens and both are exceeding the estimates shown on the sticker.  In town, we are consistently getting 36 - 40 mpg and on the highway we get anywhere from 40 - 48 mpg depending on length of trip (and this is by driving with cruise set to 68 -72 depending on traffic conditions).   An added bonus is that diesel fuel in our area is a few cents less per gallon than the premium fuel required for our Lexus!

texassugar
texassugar

I have the C-Max. The sticker said 47 mg city/hwy.  I'm getting 37.8 so that is just about right on with what  the article stated.  I must say the Ford salesman told me it wouldn't get the 47 so I really appreciated the honesty.  I still bought it and don't regret it at all.  It is still by far better than the 23 mpg I was getting on my Murano.  JamesT is right it has a "Coach" display and helps you in braking and accelerating. 

commonsense11
commonsense11

Heavy braking does not use gas. Easy braking does not use gas. Braking does not use gas. Staying on the throttle longer uses more gas. If you stay on the throttle longer that will cause you to brake harder. The sooner you get off the throttle the better mileage you'll get. When you see a red light and know you'll have to stop, get off the throttle and coast instead of keeping the same speed and braking later.

JamesT_LA
JamesT_LA

We just leased a Ford C-Max Energi plug-in hybrid for our staff car. I don't have any mileage results yet but we do seem to be getting close to the 20 mile on all electric that is advertised.

The C-Max also has multiple ways to help you improve your mileage. There is a 'Coach' display on the dash that monitors acceleration, braking and cruising. The farther you can keep the 3 lines to the right the better your mileage. For those that want something simpler, there is another display that shows green leaves. If the leaves start to fly away you are not doing well, the more leaves you have the better your mileage.

With many different drivers of this car we will be encouraging everyone to use these tools to maximize mileage.

EricVanBezooijen
EricVanBezooijen

Perhaps two tests should be run: one with the current almost-ideal conditions, and one with the car fully loaded with passengers and baggage, with a lead foot driver in a cold climate. Then the automakers can post the range of expected mileage.

conservative_progressive
conservative_progressive

I actually have found the window sticker numbers to be quite realistic on several vehicles we've owned under good driving conditions.  I've even done better in a few instances (like long highway trips during decent weather).  But then again, I don't break and accelerate like I'm running a thrill ride through an amusement park, and I mostly stay near the posted speed limits, and try to avoid high traffic situations whenever possible.

psychobillyman
psychobillyman

KIA is paying me for the mileage mistake and I actually get the mileage they posted on the sticker.  I love it! It's a win, win for me.

humtake
humtake

Kind of a simple solution.  Find out the industry averages such as, on average, how much weight is in a car...what is the average rate of acceleration...etc.  Sure, they won't be concrete numbers but I bet the mpg's listed with those factors involved would be a LOT closer than what they are now.

ssmith1793
ssmith1793

The amount of power it takes to push a car through the air is a cube function of the speed.  60 mph takes 8 times the power of 30 mph.  So the faster you drive the lower the mileage. All cars are effected by temperature, it is just more noticeable on more efficient cars.  Fuel economy is lower at lower temps because the air is denser, the tires have more rolling drag, the grease in the wheel and drivetrain are thicker and have more drag, and don't forget you are probably running the heater which consumes power.  The EPA ratings are for a specific set of conditions, so generally they make a good comparison.  In the case of the C-Max Ford did not actually run the test, they just used the numbers from Fusion hybrid which EPA rules allowed.  The taller C-Max has much higher aerodynamic drag and can't get equal mileage.  The EPA should require the number to be based on actual testing.  I have a Honda Insight and after 66,000 miles it has a lifetime average of 43mpg which is the EPA highway rating.  I live in the Midwest so I do drive in cold weather.

jefnvk
jefnvk

I've got a 2012 V6 Mustang.  Highway sticker says 29, which is dead on what I get doing 75 around Michigan.  It pushes low-mid 30's when I am in Ontario (62MPH speed limit).


City is another story.  I've exceeded the posted mileage before, I can make the car easily get it and then a bunch extra.  Then again, 305HP is rather pointless if the wheels aren't chirping on a regular basis :)

MaaliShaker
MaaliShaker

@NKAA I am having the same problem with my 2015 Honda Fit. I get 18mpg city and 29 highway when I should get 32 city, 38 highway. They told me the same thing... nothing wrong. I am considering a lawsuit because that was their selling point for me buying the car.

hondaowner
hondaowner

@shanemckinessWhen the car was a few weeks old this summer I brought it to dealership and mentioned this/they acted as though it was my driving habits, but I felt I just would need to break car in and that it needed more driving history....................I'd have to be drag racing the car to get such low mileage if it is as efficient as they claim...........................We should start a class action suit/I want a different car/I specifically bought this car because of the mpg...............................need to save $ on gas.

hondaowner
hondaowner

@shanemckiness  -- I googled 2013 civic mpg just for that reason -- and I found your comment here!!  I am averaging about 18-19.9 mpg city and at best 29 mpg on the highway (not much better than my 99 v6 accord -- which got around 17 mpg city and 21 highway -- it was more realistic -- they estimated 17-19 mpg city and I was at 17 mpg (however, they claim civic should get 28 mpg city and 38 highway -- that's around 10 mpg difference.


MaaliShaker
MaaliShaker

@Paddler45 I always got better than the advertised sticker mileage..until I bought a Honda.

hondaowner
hondaowner

@Paddler45Never think sticker represents a guarantee/but I keep my car in eco mode/drive steady/realize that traffic and keeping car running while not driving uses gas/shut car off when waiting to pick up kids at school etc..........................but there is no way  sticker should be over 10 mpg off...........


hondaowner
hondaowner

@fawmeopfw LOL -- point taken, but I've never had problems with other cars/always performed within the mpg range stated........................and this car is slow/and I keep it in eco/should be getting much better mileage than my V6 1999 accord.

DanielStuartHoffman
DanielStuartHoffman

@mitchdubo Subaru's have a notorious reputation for lack of economy. Not all their fault though, you are asking for it by buying continuous AWD. When you divide the motor's output across 4 wheels instead of 2, it is inherently less efficient, and that is the cost of such drivetrains. Subies still pretty sweet cars, just be prepared to pay out the nose for gas.

GeoffreyHamilton
GeoffreyHamilton

@mitchdubo I have a WRX that gets around 26, that is crazy that you're only getting 18. I only dip into the teens on the track.

Patrick97
Patrick97

@psmarx56 Pure gasoline? They mean no ethanol. Good luck finding that. Of the 25 gas stations around my work, none have ethanol free gas. Only 3 do at the shore. That is only due to boats not liking ethanol. The ethanol cleans out the gas tanks. You have any idea on how much crap build up in 10 year old 200 gallon tank? 

As for the car, I have yet to get the list sticker mileage. I usually beat it. But I change the oil too often according to service people. every 2000-3000 miles. With synthetic i go towards 3000. With regular oil around 2000. Also in AWD/4WD cars/trucks remember to change the gear lube in the differentials. That matters. I changed the 1998 4WD explorer I had about every 20,000 miles. Even though the sticker said 18 mpg highway I got 23-24 mpg. Still bad to cars but I beat the sticker price. In 4WD I was lucky to get 10 mpg. That was only in the snow. The car I have now I get 27 mpg city 43 mpg highway. The sticker says 23/32. The car is also a Nissan alyima.  

AEF
AEF

Flex fuel means engine can use e-85 or 10% ethonol fuel and regular gasoline means 10% ethonol pure gasoline without ethonol is available but is not for road use most areas call it rec-90 used in boat motors and some off road vehicles

FerristerBueller
FerristerBueller

@DG704 That's highway. If you were averaging 35mpg both city and highway, that would be impressive. My Kia Optima Hybrid averages 36mpg currently. While that's not the best, it's still damn good. I'm projecting to only spend $1050 in gas this year. I'm happy. :)

JanetLeClainche
JanetLeClainche

@DG704 When we lived in GB our diesel Peugeot 205 got 50+ MPG (1988 or so) and if you keep the filters clean they continue to run clean!  Why can't we achieve that here?  No need for fancy technology.

common_sense12
common_sense12

@commonsense11 


I was also confused about the braking bit, but if you think about it you'll understand.  Put simply, MPG is miles per gallon.  If you're braking as opposed to coasting, you're reducing the miles you're travelling, which reduces your MPG.

saltgrain
saltgrain

It is true that braking doesn't "use" gas.. but it does waste the energy that the gas produced if you are pressing the gas more than you need to.. you are wasting it by aggressively braking to stop the forward movement!  If you have to jam on the brakes.. you are eating up velocity that could have taken you further for no more fuel.   So.. like you said.. alert driving and anticipating the need to stop will help you save gas.. no sense jamming on the gas in town to get to the next stoplight where you will have to jam on the brakes to stop!

J-in-Indy
J-in-Indy

@JamesT_LA We've had our C-Max Energi since Feb.  Last weekend we drove from Indianapolis to Louisville and back (over 250 miles total), and got 43.1 MPG in hybrid mode - all of it with the A/C on in hot weather, three large adults, a kid, and sports gear in the back - doing between 70 and 80 MPG the whole way.  You have to know how to drive these cars properly to get the mileage.  There's a ton of information on the internet on how to get better MPG.  We do the obvious stuff, but not the "extreme" techniques that I think put excess wear on the car, like slipping the car out of drive and into neutral to coast, the EV+ mode, etc.   Our overall lifetime MPG is 75 MPG.  We love the car, and we see the gas station once about every 5 weeks a put in roughly  4 to 5 gallons.  Love the car, was a great choice we're glad we made each day we drive it.  If you stay off the highway, you can get about 31 miles on a full battery charge easy.  Good luck with the car!

davva360
davva360

@jefnvk I was about to post the same thing.  My 2011 Mustang gets better than advertised mileage on the highway.  When I am driving around town it varies based on how I drive.  

What they always fail to mention in these stories is that the biggest factor is the driver.  

jefnvk
jefnvk

My 2003 Cavalier was similar as well.  Rarely was less than posted, but often bested the numbers by a reasonable margin.

jefnvk
jefnvk

Exactly right.  I know around town, my mileage is rather crappy (albeit, only about 1MPG under posted city), because I've figured the timing of the traffic lights, and know if I gun it off the line and am up to speed as quick as possible, I can usually miss a substantial amount more of them that I would otherwise hit taking a much more fuel efficient method.

Best I ever had was Port Huron-Toronto-Port Huron run.  Filled up just on the US side of the border, rarely went over the posted 62MPH, and only drove for about five miles in the city proper.  Pen and paper calculation of miles driven divided by topped off fuel amount yielded a 34.7MPG consumption.